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Monday, October 31, 2016

Across the other pond, part 2: Takara Liccarize Mami Tomoe review

Second installment, first doll, and I dedicate this post to Presto, who has shown a fondness for this doll.  I've had this review in Draft Limbo for awhile and since I've now got some similar dolls to compare her to I thought I'd just make this part of the series.    It's not uncommon to find Licca-chan dolls dressed up as popular anime characters; in the short time that I've been following her I've seen her as characters from Hatsune Miku, Tokyo Mew-Mew, and Cardcaptor Sakura, to name a few.  I haven't seen any of those animes yet, which may have influenced my decision not to get any of those dolls.  The Sakura doll is a tad problematic, for reasons that I'll reveal shortly.  Anywho, my doll is a character from an anime that I do pay fairly close attention to.  I haven't been particularly vocal about my fondness for Puella Magi Madoka Magica (also known as Maho Shojo Madoka Magica), but I thoroughly enjoyed the anime.  My first doll is Mami Tomoe, one of Madoka's friends.
My Mami looks more like an Azone figurine than she does your everyday Takara doll.  Her box did say "Liccarize" on it, and that was what threw me off.  Apparently the "Liccarize" line is a line of dolls similar in size to Licca-chan, but have been tweaked to look like anime and literary figures.  There's an Anne of Green Gables in the bunch, along with Cardcaptor Sakura, Kiki from Kiki's Delivery Service, and Mami's friends Madoka and Homura.  Hmm...now that I think of it, maybe Mami and Homura weren't friends after all.  Either way, the other two characters in the Madoka series, Sayaka and Kyoko, apparently got left out.  I can't say that I miss Sayaka's presence too terribly, but Kyoko and I are so much alike!  She's got a big mouth and constantly eats junk food, just like me.  It would be terrific if I could find a doll like her...at least, one that wouldn't bust my bank.  Anywho, I turned out to be wrong when I thought I was getting an honest-to-God Licca-chan doll, but no biggie.  I eventually found my Licca-chan, as you'll soon see.

Alrighty, that's MORE than enough information!  My Mami is a small doll; online information states that she's nine inches tall.  She's of a comparable height to my Girls of Many Lands doll, Kathleen.
Oh, if only Kathleen's clothes came off!  She couldn't squeeze into Mami's skinny little sleeves, but imagine how her green dress would look with Mami's yellow hair!  That's right, yellow! 
If you're familiar with anime then you're probably aware that some characters have unnatural hair colors; Madoka's hair is pink, for example.  Mami is on the fringe of being unnatural; I think in the show she's supposed to be a blonde, but her hair is more of a sunshine yellow than blonde.  It's a rooted job, parted on the left, and the part extends all the way through to the bangs.

As a doll Mami's hair is styled in two sausage curls, while in the anime Mami's curls are spiral curls.  Again, that probably would've been hard to replicate on a scale like this.  I HAVE seen more accurate hairstyles on figures...but in those cases Mami's whole head was plastic.  I like the rooted hair much better.  It's soft and it holds its style pretty well, and yet if I wanted to I could restyle it.  Tied to the left curl is this gold flower.
Flowers are important to girly-girl Mami.  When she's in her school uniform both curls sport a single small flower like this, and her magical girl uniform incorporates a variation of this style, as we'll soon see.  But first, the face.
Very anime-ish.  Very manga-ish too.  Mami's got all the features that your everyday anime character has.  Her eyes are large and match her hair color, as anime eyes often do.  Her cheeks are ever so slightly blushed, her nose is dinky, and her mouth is painted in a gentle, girly smile.  Takara Tomy caught Mami's personality perfectly in this doll.  Mami's head is a different make from most of the dolls I own, by the way.  If you've handled a Barbie then you know that her head is soft and a little on the squishy side...unless it's filled with glue (grrr).  Mami's head is not squishy at all.  It's vinyl, but it feels like it may be thicker or of higher quality or...I don't know.  It's just not soft like Barbie's head.  Considering Mami's fate in the anime, that may be a good thing.

Now, clothes.  The magical girls in Puella Magi Madoka Magica had two main outfits.  Since they were all school-age girls all had a school uniform.  Okay, take that back.  Kyoko didn't wear a uniform, not in the anime, anyway.  In the "Rebellion" movie she could be seen in a school uniform, but in the anime she wore cutoff jeans and a green hoodie.  That makes me wonder if Kyoko even bothered with school at all!  The other four girls had a school uniform, though.  In addition to that, each girl had their personal magical girl uniforms, which they could transform into at will.  That is what my Mami is wearing.  The Madoka wiki suggests a western influence in Mami's uniform as opposed to the overtly Japanese aesthetic of the other girls.  In discussing this the wiki points to Mami's cap.
Mami is the only one of the five girls to wear a hat of any sort.  In the anime it's brown, but this fabric looks...well, in certain lights it looks almost dark purple!  This particular hat attaches with a rubber band, and my doll's rubber band broke as soon as I tried to put the hat on!  I was able to knot the elastic back together, but if you get this doll keep that in mind.  Attached to the right side of the hat is this clump of fake fur, meant to simulate a plume of feathers, and another much larger flower.
The center of this flower is painted shiny yellow-orange to simulate Mami's soul gem.  Yep, soul gem!  Mami wears it on her hat, in the shape of one of her flower clips.  To me this seems like a dangerous place to wear a soul gem, but it worked out reasonably well for Mami...I guess.  The soul gem is where magical girls get their magic, and where they "live," more or less.  Their shape and color both vary, usually to match the personality of the magical girl.  Placement on the body varies as well.  If the soul gem breaks, the magical girl dies.  If the soul gem's limited source of magic becomes depleted then the soul gem becomes black and...well, watch Sayaka very closely and you'll see what happens!  Any questions?  No???  Good!  Let's move on.  Mami's dress is all one piece, but it's been carefully designed to look like she's wearing layers.
Normally I prefer layers, but imagine how bulky that would be on such a small doll!  Even without layers there's still quite a bit to talk about, though.  The top part of Mami's uniform consists of this white blouse.  It looks like she's wearing long sleeves, but in truth she's got short puffed sleeves with detachable longer parts.
Underneath the sleeves are these little brown pleather gauntlets.
I hate putting these on her, by the way.  They are so soft that they bunch up around the cuffs of the sleeves, and they also feel like they'll tear if I get too ham-handed.  When I dressed Mami the first time I ended up having to use a blunt nail file to push these into place.  The rest of of Mami's blouse is white.  It has a mandarin collar with a yellow ribbon at the neck.
Yellow ribbons are a big deal for Mami; she uses these for a number of things when she battles.  The yellow ribbon extends downward, connecting the blouse to the...corset?  Bustier?  Whatever it is, Mami wears one.  It's got three little "buttons" down the front, with three corresponding attachments.
This goes all the way around Mami's waist and is trimmed with yellow and white ribbons along the top, bottom, and sides.  The bottom ribbon ties in back, creating this nice big bow.
Actually the back fastens with Velcro, but this ribbon is supposed to simulate a tie so that's what I'm going to call it.  Rounding out the bottom part of the dress is this yellow circle skirt.  LOL, bad pun!
This part is pretty plain, as it is in the actual program.  It's mustard yellow with a printed brown hem.
The actual hem itself is not finished at all, and if you look closely you can see that it's a tiny bit ragged.  The brown stripe feels like it's reinforced with some sort of fray-stop, so I shouldn't have to worry about Mami's skirt coming apart.  The material is too light and stiff for this skirt to hang properly, so the sides pop up.  If you look just right you can see Mami's skivvies underneath!  Luckily Mami does have a pair of white skivvies underneath.  This is a good thing, because if I bend her over she moons the world!  Once again, I could easily picture Kyoko mooning the world, but not Mami.  Overall I like this dress, but I wish the skirt were a little heavier.  Mami is a very lively character in the anime, and I can't help but wonder if a thicker material would look more like her swirling anime skirt.  Still, it's not bad.

On her feet Mami wears a thick pair of thigh-high stockings.  These are brown with cream stripes, and like the hat they look slightly purplish.
Topping it all off are these boots.
These are soft brown vinyl with mustard gold accents painted on.  They are NOT slit up the back, making them different from most of my other doll shoes.  While I appreciate this lack of a slit for aesthetic reasons, I dreaded having to shove those boots onto Mami's feet.  Luckily they went on with ease, thanks largely to her thick socks.  I did have to push a little, but not hard.

I consider myself fortunate that I didn't have to push hard on Mami's shoes, because she herself would've been no help.  I haven't reviewed Licca-chan yet, but I think she and Mami share a body.  We'll find out for sure when I review Licca.  I got a bit of a shock when I pulled Mami's dress off.  Her blouse is padded!  I don't know why that surprised me, but it did.
In the anime Mami is depicted as having a fairly large bust, so I understand why this was done.  I'm just not used to seeing dolls with stuffed blouses.  Apparently this is common with dolls that are supposed to be dressed like Mami.  LOL, anyway, underneath the clothes and the stuffing Mami has...I think this is the body that most Licca-chan dolls use, but I've not looked at my Licca-chan yet so I can't say for sure.  Anyway, here's what the body looks like.
I think Mami is silently plotting my death for making her pose naked.  She's usually nice in the anime, but she can have a temper!  As you can see, though, this body is fairly well-developed, so I can't help wondering if that stuffing was necessary.  Overall the body is trim but not overly sexualized.  Her arms and legs are slim and fairly shapeless, but her hands are cute.  Very tiny, and yet very detailed!
It's hard to photograph these hands clearly, but trust me.  They've got five little fingers and five little fingernails.  The vinyl is very flexible here, which made putting Mami's gauntlets on that much harder.  Still, these are adorable little hands.  The feet are dainty as well.
Not quite as well molded, but they're definitely functional feet with five toes and a bit of an elevated heel.  While the flexibility of Mami's hands was a bit of a curse, her equally bendy feet are a blessing.  It's much easier to shove her boots on.  It's a bit tricky to get those socks back on her legs after undressing, though!

Mami's body (Licca's body?) is not the most poseable in the world, but it does have all the joints that a doll body should.  The arms swivel around the shoulder sockets, but have no lateral movement.
The arms make up somewhat for the lack in lateral movement by bending just above the elbow.
It's not a lot of movement, but probably that's a good thing since wires that are too flexible have a nasty habit of breaking.  For a doll like Mami, that would be a bad thing.  The picture above also shows how the elbows flatten out when they're bent.  This isn't a big deal for short-term projects like what I'm doing, but if Mami's arms were bent for too long odds are that they'd stay squashed like that.  Food for thought.

Mami's legs bend in a similar fashion, though the knees don't squash flat when bent.
The legs also rotate at the hips.  Mami can do front-to-back splits...
...and she can sit.
Mami is not very steady in a seated position position, so I usually don't seat her at all.  I just use her stand.
Mami's stand is clear plastic, and I love it.  I wonder if all dolls in the Liccarize series have these?  I certainly hope so, because these dolls can't stand alone!  I have to bend Mami's knees a bit in order to keep her from pitching forward, but otherwise she stands in this like a champ.

I don't see dolls with bodies like this too often.  Before I started collecting these Asian dolls the only one with joints like this was Penny Brite, who can bend both her arms and her legs in this manner.  I think Penny has let this magical girl thing go to her head a little.
"I want to be a magical girl too!"
"No you don't."

Since Mami's outfit is a pain in the butt to put back on I'm going to wait until Licca's review to discuss what these dolls can wear.  I did order one thing specifically for Mami, though.  Something that I ordered long before Licca came.  This dress is a Blythe dress.
Gotta have yellow!  The aged look was achieved with coffee, so the dress smells nice.  It looks good on Mami from the front, but from the side it's clear that the fit isn't great.
It's easy to ignore this loose fit since it looks so nice with Mami's hair, but nevertheless I'm itching to try this on Licca-chan and Jenny.  Now I'd best put Mami back in her magical girl garb and be done with all this undressing, lest I fall victim to Tiro Finale

I can't think of anything else I want to say, so good stuff/bad stuff time.

BAD
*Not versatile.  This doll is meant to portray one character, and one character only.
*Easy to undress, but hard to redress.  I suspect that this doll was not meant for redressing.
*Rubber band on the hat broke, like rubber bands love to do.
*Hairstyle would be difficult to replicate if messed up.
*Skirt not hemmed, though that won't be too much of an issue.

GOOD
*Accurate portrayal of the character.  The box and advertisements say she's supposed to be Mami Tomoe, and she definitely is.
*Well-painted.
*Hair is soft and not easily mussed, which is a good thing considering the style.
*Clothing is detailed and accurate to the anime.  
*She came with a stand that functions well.
*Very detailed.  The only thing Mami lacks that I wish she had is her gun.  Otherwise she's got everything.  Soul gem, hair flowers, everything that makes her identifiable.
*Shoes stay on when put on, but are still easy to get off. 
*Most of the flaws listed above are easily rectifiable.  The broken rubber band was fixable, and the unhemmed skirt is painted so it won't ravel.

I really had to nitpick to find flaws with Miss Mami.  She is a very delightful doll and would make a good buy for fans of Licca-chan and of the Madoka series.  She's also an affordable substitute for an Azone doll.  While not as flexible or as detailed as an Azone, Mami does have the look.  Here's what her Azone self looks like; the two aren't exactly the same, but they're not far off.  In short, I love this little doll.  She'll make a superb shelfmate for my Licca.

Speaking of Licca, her review is coming up next so stay tuned!

Best wishes to all,
RagingMoon1987

Something scary for Halloween

While I'm working on my series of Asian doll reviews, here's a link to a video about haunted dolls:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROc5_aal0Tg

Rob Dyke is a guilty pleasure of mine.  I watch his horror lists on a regular basis, but this is the first time he's done something related to dolls.  Hope y'all enjoy!

Happy Halloween,
RagingMoon1987

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Across the other pond, part 1: introduction to a new series

Welcome to a new series that I've been putting together for awhile.  I have in my midst a small but growing number of dolls that are available abroad.  It's not going to be Sindy; I've got her planned for a Throwback Thursday post.  No, this is for dolls available across the OTHER pond, better known as the Pacific Ocean.  Most of the ones I've currently got are Japanese, while one represents China.  These dolls are for the most part very different from what Americans have, but one thing is alive and well in both the east and the west.  Here's my first five dolls, and four of them have something in common:  pink clothes.
That's a lot of pink.  Mami's the only one who doesn't wear it, and if I redress her she can be a little flamingo too. 

My fondness for these dolls grew from my love of things that are a little out of the ordinary.  Being born and raised here in the States, I've grown to see Barbie's blonde hair and impossibly pretty face as "ordinary."  I'll glance at the shelves, think "Oh, another pretty Barbie," and move on.  I didn't know what sort of dolls the Japanese and Chinese played with until I saw some Bandai Barbies in an old issue of Barbie Bazaar.  The dolls lacked the ridiculous beauty that Barbie possesses.  Instead of being beautiful, these dolls focused heavily on the cute factor.  As I start reviewing these you'll see what I mean by that.

Stay tuned for reviews of these unusual creatures.  While you wait, check out Miss Emily's Kurhn dolls.  She has a play doll and one that's more intended for collectors

Much love,
RagingMoon1987